It’s way too early to consider a 21st century car a classic, right? Well, with the move toward total electrification, many of the combustion-engined cars we love will be gone sooner than we think, already pushing values for some of the biggest hits of the past decade. Sure, some on this list have already gone up in price, but their true values still have a long way to go. And unlike older classic cars, they are more specialized and refined than almost any other era of automobile.
Here are five future icons from the recent past.
BMW M3 CSL E46
BMW turned 50 in 2020, and despite an extensive back catalog of brilliant sports cars, it’s the 2003 BMW M3 CSL that shines brightest from modern times. BMW only built 1,383 units in total, 544 of which were right-hand drive, making the CSL a relatively rare beast.
Yet its ‘specialty’ – and thus value – comes not from its rarity, but from what it can do. With a stunning straight-six, sharp agility and a focus on lightweight engineering, it was truly one of the most visceral and engaging cars of the decade to drive.
The only fly in its ointment is that the values are already escalating, but they should only continue to rise as BMW moves into an all-electric future.
Nissan R34 GT-R V Specification
The Nissan GT-R is as much an icon of the 2000s as it is Japanese engineering; the culmination of more than a decade of intensive development of the components introduced by its R32 predecessor in 1989. But what really magnifies the value of the R34, both in monetary value and sentimentality, is the importance of pop culture, both in terms of movies (the Fast & Furious franchise) and gaming (Gran Turismo).
The good news is that the R34 GT-R, especially in V Spec form, doesn’t disappoint on the road, finding incredible buys and driving in the sort of conditions the UK sees fit to force us to spend most of the year on. In fact, this four-seat coupe is also relatively practical, and although retail prices are extremely high, it will always remain an icon, so its value should continue to grow.
Audi R8 4.2 FSi
The Audi R8 was a sort of random exercise for Audi. After nearly a decade of massive growth, the brand decided it needed a flagship supercar. So it borrowed an aluminum mid-engine chassis from Lamborghini (which owns it), put its high-revving V8 engine in the middle, and wrapped it all up in a futuristic design.
But for what could so easily have been a branding exercise, the R8 4.2 FSi actually turned out to be a revelation in the supercar class, fighting away the perennial Porsche 911 and in one fell swoop introducing a completely unique automotive experience that seduced everyone who drove it.
Sales were in fact very strong, which in turn flooded the used market and kept the value low, but with interest on the rise and the 4.2 FSi manual particularly popular, the value only seems to be rising from here. (And up. And up.)
Mercedes-McLaren SLR camera
You may have heard of the ‘Holy Trinity’ (a selection of three immense hypercars from Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren in the year 2011), but it wasn’t the first time terminology was used in reference to a three-way supercar revolution – in 2003 Mercedes-McLaren formed a third of the former.
This ‘Hyper GT’, as it was sometimes called, was co-developed by Mercedes-Benz and McLaren, the latter of which had not yet launched its own series of production cars. This odd Frankenstein of a car combined Mercedes design and powertrains with cutting-edge carbon fiber construction that wasn’t exactly hailed as the most advantageous combination at launch.
Time has been kind to the SLR, however, as its shortcomings now mean less in a modern context, making its uniqueness even more interesting given its very well-priced place in the market.
Porsche Carrera GT
Another part of the aforementioned iconic trio from 2003 was the Porsche Carrera GT. And while it will be tricky to get your hands on one for just under £800,000, believe us it’s worth it. That’s because, unlike the Merc-engined SLR, the Carrera GT was an engineering triumph that led to one of the greatest powertrains of all time.
Its 5.7-litre V10 engine made a sound like none other, screeching in a car built like Swiss clockwork. It was basic inside – there really isn’t much creature comforts – and it’s a fickle beast to ride if you’re not in the mood to go with its ceramic clutch or spikey handling, but it will almost certainly go down going as the pinnacle of supercar engineering.